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PostPosted: 07 Oct 2009, 21:40 
Guardian of the East

Joined: 22 Dec 2008, 02:47
Posts: 589
So concludes Dr. Gregg Frazer in a reply in the Evangelical Outpost blog entry (reported in Positive Liberty, Frazer on the Bible and Founding Documents, American Creation, The Bible as a Source for Founding Documents, and Jon Rowe in Secular Right, Our Christian Constitution)

He noted that the Constitution's writers never claim the Bible as a source, neither in the document itself, nor in the hundreds of pages of notes that they had taken while composing it, nor in their advocacy of it in all 85 of the Federalist Papers. They cite LOTS of other sources and influences for the DoI and the Constitution, however, like Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Algernon Sidney, ancient Rome, Sparta, German confederacies, Montesquieu, etc.

Frazer even argues that the DoI's "Providence", "Nature's God", and "Supreme Judge of the World" are not Biblical descriptions of God, which seems a bit of a stretch. But he points out that the Federalist Papers contain two references to "God", one of them in reference to Hellenic-pagan gods, two references to "Almighty", and three to "Providence". But none of these are in reference to any constitutional principle.

He argues:
The key Founders (J. Adams, Washington, Jefferson, Franklin, Madison, Hamilton, Wilson, & G. Morris) — those most responsible for the founding documents — were religious, but not Christians. They believed that religion was essential to produce the morality that a free society required, but that any religion would suffice. Their religious belief was a mixture of Protestantism, natural religion, and rationalism — with rationalism as the trump card and decisive factor. They retained elements of Christianity, but rejected the elements of Christianity (and of natural religion) that they considered irrational. However: of the ten CORE beliefs of Christianity (those shared by all of the major Protestant denominations of the day (and by the Catholics)), they held to only one (or two, in some cases). Their belief system was, as I have termed it, theistic rationalism.

Seems more like a very liberal sort of Christianity to me, which may almost be called Christian rationalism. In any case, I agree with Frazer that it is a rather big departure from orthodoxy.

Frazer may well be correct that "They believed that religion was essential to produce the morality that a free society required, but that any religion would suffice." But believing that says nothing about one's personal beliefs. Consider that Plato had believed something similar; he proposed that his Republic have an official religion which he called a royal lie.

The Secular Right blog has another interesting entry in this vein, God of the Founders, by Bradlaugh:
I’ve blogged before here about the way religious ideologues are for ever trying to “recruit” historical figures, in the spirit of “Beethoven was black.”

Our nation’s Founders are popular subjects for this treatment. Here is an excellent antidote to the wilder claims: Brooke Allen’s Moral Minority. She studies six of the Founders in detail and finds not much piety. These were educated, skeptical men of their time, “social Christians” at best.

Or maybe very liberal ones.

Bradlaugh was likely referring to his entry The H.L. Mencken Club, describing a visit to there where he gave a talk. After noting the range of religious beliefs of the people there from God-is-dead-get-over-it Nietzcheans to Blue-Scapular Catholics to young-earth creationists, he continued with
In some of the other addresses and commentary I am pretty sure I detected efforts by RC ideologues to “recruit” Mencken. They have gotten awfully good at ”recruiting” historical persons and movements, like Latter-Day Saints baptizing their ancestors. Did you know that the scientific revolution was inspired by Catholic teaching? That the American Founders were crypto-Catholics? (Yes, even Jefferson — see e.g. Damon Linker’s book, p.71.) That Shakespeare was Catholic? Etc., etc. Whether the RC ideologues have yet managed to recruit Nietzsche, I couldn’t say, but I bet they have tried.

After noting that gay advocates and Communists also do it, he continued with
Was Mencken, in between hooting at the backwoods glossolalists of Tennessee and telling us that “my true and natural allegiance [is] to the Devil’s party, and it has been my firm belief that … all persons who devote themselves to forcing virtue on their fellow men deserve nothing better than kicks in the pants” — was he actually sneaking off to do his beads in some dark corner? I expect to see it confidently asserted, if it hasn’t already been.

The idea of Thomas Jefferson or George Washington as crypto-Catholics seems almost as absurd.

PostPosted: 08 Oct 2009, 09:32 
Grand Poobah
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Joined: 18 Sep 2007, 11:26
Posts: 5793
Location: Buffalo, NY
Thanks for sharing--- I love your posts. They have so much info.

I have to admit, I'm guilty of it as well, looking for pagans in history. But I think I'm a bit more skeptical about it than making TJ into one...

Chloride and Sodium: Two terribly dangerous substances that taste great together!

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